Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.
Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of science books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!
Table of Contents
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood
So much flat earth goodness in this book, my darlings! You must get this for anyone on your list who has ever adored Discworld, laughed at flat earthers, or wondered how we figured out the world is round. Christine Garwood tells tales of many flat earth believers, including the one who tried to bet against Alfred Russell Wallace his own self. I adored this book, it is thoroughly engaging and will help you understand how so many people could ignore or deny plain, obvious facts. My review here.
Marie Tharp mapped a region of our globe more unfathomable than the solar system, but most of us probably haven’t read her story in our history books. Hali Felt brings her to vivid life in a book that is part biography, part cartography, and part history. Scientific and human relationships are explored along with the ocean floor, and we’re along for the ridge as the Midocean Ridges are discovered and revealed. I can personally vouch for this one, having read it my own self (alas, I haven’t reviewed it yet. Awesome review here.)
When Mount St. Helens erupted cataclysmically on May 18th, 1980, a lot of people were caught in the blast zone. Some witnessed the eruption from within the devastated area. Some were in the air, some on other Cascades peaks. Some didn’t survive, but left photos and notes behind. Everyone had a unique story to tell. USGS geologist Richard Waitt collects their stories in a volume that will chill, thrill, and keep you up at night. Anyone who’s at all interested in volcanic eruptions needs this book. My liveblogging of the reading experience can be found here.
The Fossil Hunter by Shelley Emling
At last, a book about Mary Anning for adults! Anning made many important fossil discoveries in the early days of paleontology, despite growing up poor and female in a world dominated by the upper classes and men. Shelley Emling explores her life, and investigates the greater importance of her work beyond, “Hey, she found some neat bones!” The unbeliever on your list will especially enjoy how those discoveries stymied folks who believed in the Bible, which somehow fails to mention all these extinct species all over the place. Excellent review here.
Brian Switek is a fabulous writer with a huge love of dinosaurs, and in this book, he takes us adventuring through new discoveries as he also explores his love affair with the gigantic extinct beasties. Speaking of love affairs: he even gives us some insight into saurian sex lives. Suitable for anyone who adores dinosaurs, and especially for those who want up-to-date information in a beautifully entertaining book. Fun review here.
Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy by Mark P. Witton
Do you have someone in your life who wants to know anything and everything about pterosaurs? This is the absolute perfect book. Lavishly detailed and illustrated, including current knowledge, theories, and well-informed speculation, it will satisfy some curiosity whilst allowing the reader to happily imagine what we may discover about these remarkable creatures in the future. Detailed review here.
The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw
This book is for bird lovers. Want to know what makes our avian friends tick? Katrina van Grouw goes under the feathers to explore their anatomy, evolution, and behavior. Rich, detailed illustrations explore many aspects of each species, from skeleton to muscle, as they go about their bird bidness. Review and behind the scenes stories here.
Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution by Robert M. Price and Edwin Suominen
Nooo don’t run away! This isn’t for creationist Christians! This is a book I became aware of when one of the authors popped into a Facebook thread and posted a couple of pages on monkey morality. I read. I was instantly hooked. In two pages. The writing was exquisite and the science sound. Edwin Suominen set out to reconcile evolution with Christianity and lost his faith in the process. The evidence he found was undeniable: evolution is real. Both authors have a background in Christian faith, and they are able to sympathize with those struggling due to the loss of it, but never flinch away from the scientific evidence. And, like I said: really engaging writing. This one’s great for the unbelievers, pagans, heathens, theistic evolutionists, science lovers, secularists, and even evangelicals on your list. Edwin Suominen talks about the book here.
A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg
The coelacanth is one of my favorite fish and fish stories. So Evelyn sent me this book, and it is all about the discovery of the awesomeness that is coelacanth! Alas, I haven’t read it yet, but it looks to be fabulous, following many stories of the various people who studied fossilized ones, found and analyzed the living ones, and the various rivalries and arguments over them. People who love these funky fish that were once lost in time should adore this book. Review here.
Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young
We’ve been hearing about the mysterious differences between the male and female brain for half of forever now, but does the science really support that notion? Rebecca Jordan-Young reviews the available studies, and finds that while the hormones the fetus is exposed to do have an effect on the development of the sex organs, there’s no science supporting dramatic differences in mental functioning. This is an important book to have for those arguments with evolutionary psychologists and others who believe we’re innately different. There’s an excellent review of the book here.
Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality by Patricia S. Churchland
So how can atheists be moral? Patricia Churchland’s book isn’t exactly about that, but you can get there from here. She explores the science behind morality, exploring how neurology and psychology evolved and function in human and other brains, causing what we perceive to be moral behaviors. She also delves into philosophy, thus not falling into is-ought traps. She’s also careful to account for the fact that culture, as well as our basic wiring, affects our moral understanding. See this review for more.
The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House by Marc Draco, Mark Alsip, and Kavin Senapathy
If someone you love is totally suckered by Vani Hari (aka Food Babe), you can get them this book. If you know someone who loves to see medical misinformation and pseudoscience debunked, they will scream with delight when you hand it to them. And it’s not just about Food Babe, although her nonsense is a large part of what the authors are countering. They tackle a whole world of woo, from anti-vax bullshit to anti-GMO nonsense and beyond. I’m in the middle of it right now and thoroughly enjoying it. Kavin Senapathy talks about it here.
So, this is the woman who made longitude lines on a map fascinating (see above: Longitude in Earth Sciences), so you can only imagine what she does with something as momentous as the Copernican Revolution. Despite scant original source material, she manages to give us a rich understanding of Copernicus’s remarkable discovery and the world it rocked. Emily Lakdawalla reviews it here. And, if you want to give a double-book present, consider adding The Planets as a companion volume.
The Hundred Greatest Stars by James B. Kaler
For anyone who loves stars, astronomy, or anything about the cosmos, really. James Kaler introduces us to a hundred of the most important stars in our heavens. Each star gets its own two-page spread and loving attention. Review here.
Do you or someone you know like stuff? Do you want to know more stuff about stuff? Mark Miodownik knows about all the stuff, and shares his knowledge with you in this fascinating tome. This is a book all about materials science, which is a lot more interesting than some of us might believe. I mean, there’s even an inner life of stuff. Also, a story about stabbings and staples. And lots of other stuff. Very excellent and engaging review here.